July 21, 2020
Exercise a Bitter Pill to Swallow?
A study just released suggested, yet again, that a pill might be developed that would offer the benefits of exercise. The researchers discovered that a molecule made by the liver, called GPLD-1—whose normal job is to cut the fatty tails off some proteins that are anchored in cell membranes (thus releasing the membrane proteins from their cellular tethers)—is induced by exercise, and provides many of the benefits of exercise on cognition. Although clinical development would take at least several years, perhaps it is something we’ll all be popping in the future as a cognitive support measure?
Over the years, we’ve been offered happiness in a pill; calm in a pill; sleep in a pill; memory in a pill, and now exercise in a pill. It hasn’t worked out very well, with increased risks for Alzheimer’s, suicide, arrhythmias, erectile dysfunction, and other side effects from these various wonder pills. So, what about the potential for an exercise-replacement pill? What might it do, what might it not do, and what might it damage?
GPLD-1 was found to improve cognition just as exercise does, and of course, for those truly unable to exercise, this could be a blessing. But for the rest of us, maybe more of a mixed blessing — for example, would the new pill increase sweating, helping to remove various chemotoxins and biotoxins that increase our risk for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cancer, and other chronic illnesses? Does it get us outdoors, lowering our risk for COVID-19, mycotoxin exposure, vitamin D deficiency, and sedentary lifestyle? Does it improve insulin sensitivity, ketosis, and cerebral oxygenation? Does it improve our cardiac function, cerebral blood flow, and kidney function? Does it improve our mood and sleep? Does it give us a post-exercise high? Photos with friends? A sense of accomplishment, with lifelong memories?
Exercise has always been the “better than pill” therapeutic modality for Alzheimer’s. Perhaps the future “exercise pill” will be an effective adjunct to exercise itself — time will tell. But as we continue to enhance the efficacy of our protocols for the prevention and reversal of cognitive decline, it may be advantageous to reduce pill numbers instead of increasing them? For now, depending solely upon pharmaceutical shortcuts to optimize health is likely to be a bit shortsighted.